What Are the EDI Standards? Here’s a Comprehensive Guide!

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Business transactions involve the exchange of documents such as purchase orders and invoices. Manual preparation and sending of such papers can be cumbersome. Humans can introduce errors and cause complications to the business process.

Automation of these procedures contributes to speedy processing, fewer errors, reduced costs, and improved relationships amongst business partners. Parties in a transaction can enjoy these benefits by using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). EDI is the transfer of business documents between computers in a standardized electronic format.

EDI standards provide a uniform format for conversion and transmission of data in your trucking business. They determine the sequence and position of units of data in an EDI document.

There are many EDI standard formats designed for different types of transactions. Keep on reading to learn more!

Components of EDI Standards

Every EDI standard format comprises of elements, segments, and transaction sets. An element is the smallest constituent of an EDI standard. You can compare it to a word in a natural language.

A segment matches a sentence while a transaction set mimics a paragraph or a document. EDI standards are like reading and writing rules. Elements make segments, and segments create a transaction set.

How EDI Works

EDI is a substitute for email, fax, and postal mail. Documents flow through an application on the recipient’s end, and processing commences. This is different from sending emails since there’s no human effort at any point.

EDI documents have to be in a standard format since they need computer processing. The computers exchanging data must understand the information. It’s like how human beings have to use a common language to communicate.

The most popular method of transmitting messages through EDI is utilizing a value-added network (VAN). The VAN reviews the signal to and routes it to the intended recipient.

A more recent EDI mode of communication is called the Applicability Statement 2 (AS2). It offers Secure Multi-Purpose Internet Mail Extensions and uses Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP/HTTPS) to send data.

AS2 is an advanced version of AS1, a slower method which uses Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. HTTP and HTTPS enable real-time communication between computers over the internet. These EDI standards enhance data security and integrity using digital signatures and encryption.

Examples of EDI Standards

There are many EDI document standards used in different industries. Some are regional while others have international acceptance. Here are four of the most common EDI Standards.

1. ANSI ASC X12

The American National Standards Institute and the Accredited Standards Committee developed the ANSI ASC X12 standards to ease business transactions. ANSI X12 used to support firms in different sectors within North America in the start.

The standards have gained immense popularity across the world. More than 300,000 international companies use ANSI ASC X12. The standards provide a uniform platform for the electronic data transfer.

2. UN/EDIFACT

The UN/EDIFACT is a United Nations EDI standard for Administration, Commerce, and Transport. This is an international standard.

Its further development occurs through the UN/CEFACT (United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business). The UN Economic Commission for Europe oversees the maintenance of this standard.

UN/EDIFACT provides the syntax necessary for an interactive data exchange protocol. It offers standard messages which enable countries and industries to exchange transaction documents.

Europe was the first to adopt the standard, and this makes it popular with companies in the region. There has also been a significant acceptance of UN/EDIFACT in some Asian countries.

3. ODETTE

The ODETTE standards are a creation of the Organization for Data Exchange by Tele Transmission in Europe. The association represents stakeholders in the motor vehicle industry in Europe.

It develops infrastructure and advises on how to enhance the flow of goods, services, and information across the automobile manufacturers. ODETTE has developed useful communications standards like OFTP and OFTP2.0.

4. TRADACOMS

TRADACOMS is one of the earliest EDI standards developed for the United Kingdom’s retailers. It came into being in 1982 as part of the UN/GTDI syntax, a predecessor of EDIFACT. The UK Article Numbering Association used to maintain and improve this standard.

The standard may seem outdated since its development stopped in 1995, but it persists. Majority of the retail traders in the UK today still use TRADACOMS for EDI purposes.

Benefits of Electronic Data Interchange

The cost of paper, printing, storage, reproduction, filing, and postage is enormous. EDI eliminates most of these expenses. The budget for processing and sending hard copies is much more than sending an EDI document.

Manual processing of documents often results in mistakes. They may come as a result of typographical errors, illegible handwriting, and loss of emails or faxes, among other reasons. Using an EDI system improves accuracy and reduces disputes among trading partners.

Error-free processing also saves employee time in reworking orders. It also reduces cases of order cancellation. Automation allows workers to focus on critical tasks which need their attention.

A transaction which requires days in a manual system can take a few hours with EDI. Computers can process and exchange orders and invoices in minutes without human intervention. Typing the documents and sending them by mail or fax requires considerable effort and time.

Shortcomings of EDI Systems

EDI technology comes at a price. All partners intending to communicate using EDI must install the appropriate infrastructure and have a budget for its maintenance. The cost can be high for small traders of firms with minimal technical resources.

Companies with older systems may not be able to generate or accept EDI orders. Some receive orders electronically, print them out, and enter them into their systems.

EDI Standards – Final Thoughts

EDI is a phenomenon which has helped business partners to have quick communication in a secure environment. Electronic transmission of documents saves traders money by eliminating paperwork. The system is doesn’t need human supervision.

Various EDI standards come in different versions. Trading partners must agree on the standard and version to use to exchange documents. Businesses may have to use an EDI translator to interpret EDI documents for processing by internal applications.

Traders who are always sending documents should integrate their business processes with EDI. The long-term benefits of using an EDI system surpass the cost of installation.

We’d love to hear from you, so just reach out to us if you have any question.

How Driverless or Autonomous Trucks Will Impact Your Supply Chain Strategy

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With companies paying an average of $180,000 a year to operate the average commercial truck, it’s one of the biggest expenses in the supply chain. As autonomous trucks start to be used by companies around the world, there are some major changes coming to the industry. Driverless trucks will speed up transportation in ways that we still can only speculate on.

Here are 5 ways that autonomous trucks will improve your supply chain and impact your strategy.

1. Insane Efficiency

If there’s one basic fact about drivers is that they get tired. The number of people required to fill a truck, drive a truck and then unload it not only requires lots of other support staff, but also a huge payroll investment.

When you’re dealing with autonomous trucks, especially when they go electric, you’re talking about no emissions and no cost to staff. The supply chain will become streamlined when nearly 300 pounds of items can be delivered by an electric van. You could deliver your items to hundreds of people at a time without any human intervention.

Whether you’re dealing with a highway full of self-driving vehicles or final mile deliveries, this technology has huge ramifications. You’ll see traffic and congestion clear up as efficiency is improved.

From fulfillment centers to consumers’ homes, deliveries will only be as limited as the limits volume.

2. Long Distance Improvements

There’s been a lot of progress when it comes to long distance driving. Long distance deliveries are being explored by lots of vehicle companies. Uber even acquired a self-driving truck company in 2017, seeking to be ahead of the pack when it comes time to get the technology off the ground.

While most of the self-driving vehicles are still “driver assisted”, they’re the first step on the path of truly autonomous trucks. As the drivers assisting them are able to do less and less to correct the driving, we will get closer to automatic driving.

While interstates are much more predictable than city driving, once trucks are able to drive on their own on highways, that will be the next frontier.

Supply chains are mostly impacted by long-distance driving as opposed to final mile trips, so this is the bigger hurdle when it comes to supply. Also, since most warehouses exist outside of cities, fixing interstate transport is the most important issue in autonomous driving.

3. Major Cost Savings

Autonomous vehicles will be a larger investment than buying a standard truck as they exist now. However, you’ll soon see savings as you’ll be paying less for staffing your trucks and covering all of the associated costs with having laborers.

Not only will you save on the cost of having driver, as stated above, but you’ll also be paying virtually nothing for fuel. Miles per gallon ratings on trucks aren’t very good compared to the cost of powering up electric vehicles.

On top of that, with automated systems and smart driving technology, you won’t be paying the kinds of insurance costs that are associated with transport. You’ll have to pay for insurance on drivers, liability insurance based on accidents, and even consider the disruption that accidents cause to productivity.

Automatic vehicles that are all in communication with one another can work together to prevent accidents and help improve supply chain efficiency.

4. Platooning

One of the biggest changes that could happen to improve the supply chain is the act of “platooning” your fleet. You could reduce your cost by tethering your vehicles together electronically.

While sometimes you have one part in one truck and another part in a second truck, you can ensure they all arrive together with platooning. Rather than having to have separate people manning separate trucks, with speeds and efficiency varying, you can keep your whole fleet on track.

One driver or crew member will manage the entire long-distance journey of your platoon, keeping your convoy from being split up. Once at a hub near the final location, you can have separate drivers direct everything to the final mile.

Platooning trials are being run all around the world now. In Singapore, they are able to move across four trucks on highways. In the U.S., trucks have been tested by Volvo to haul containers across California’s interstate highways.

5. Capacity Will Change

We’re sure to see a surge in freight capacity with the help of autonomous trucks. Since they can drive 24 hours a day, they can move for longer hours and change the math we use to understand how truck transport works.

Since they can be operated without consideration for driver schedules or their need for sleep, they can be driven at later hours, and significantly reduce congestion. This will mean that you’ll have a reduction in the cost of transport. Productivity changes open up the ability to improve and increase profits immensely.

The transportation sector will take up this technology eventually but it might take3 some time given the investment required. As autonomous trucks take over the roads, the supply chain may not be prepared for the improved efficiency.

There might not even be any reduction to staffing required. Staff will be redirected to distribution or at warehouses. As more product can come in and delivery takes less time, products can get into the hands of consumers fast.

Tracking will be improved, deadly accurate, and predictable in ways never expected before.

Autonomous Trucks Will Make Life Better

While some people predict that drivers will be out of a job once autonomous trucks become the norm. However, with that added efficiency, you’ll need staff to manage all of the product that will be at your doorstep. There will be just as much work to be done, just greater efficiency.

If you’re looking at shipment tracking software, check out our guide so you know what to look for.

The 7 Benefits of Supply Chain Intelligence For Your Business

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The costs of a poorly managed supply chain aren’t hard to imagine. You’ve got to pay for the space to hold your excess inventory, your vendors aren’t happy with the inconsistent orders, or you aren’t prepared with the right amount of product when the market demands it.

It’s essential to have a grasp on how to optimize your supply chain. If you don’t, you risk losing money and ruining relationships. This is why it’s so important to invest in supply chain intelligence.

As you’ll soon find out, the investment is well worth it.

The Importance of Supply Chain Intelligence

The supply chain is clearly important, but the wide-reaching effect that it has doesn’t come to mind clearly. Supply chain intelligence gives a systematic understanding of each level of your supply chain.

This means you know specific quantities and timeframes, and have the quantified data to refer to in the future. We’ve compiled a list of seven important benefits that supply chain intelligence gives.

1. Accurate Forecasting

When you’re able to see specifically how much product you use during certain periods, you’re able to have a pretty good grasp of what you should be expecting in the future. Accurate supply chain data will give you an extreme advantage in the market.

Some intelligence allows you to monitor any business changes or alterations at all points in your chain, which gives you the ability to prepare when issues arise. Any hiccup in the chain will trigger an alert that allows you to make adjustments when needed.

You’ll also be able to prepare for those times when your customers purchase the most and know how much you should expect to sell. All of this is streamlined when you have a close eye on your supply chain.

2. Faster Responses

Those hang-ups that we discussed in the previous section can cause serious delays at times. These delays can extend for as long as it takes for your vendors to fix the problem or for you to find someone else to replace that link in the chain.

This will establish you as a company that is reliable and trustworthy. The more faith that you can command, the more profitable your business will be.

3. Save Money in the Chain

Every link in the chain involves some kind of cost. Whether it’s the weight of the excess goods you ordered or the change in warehouse arrangement that you didn’t know about, small mistakes are going to add up in the long run.

Understanding as specifically as you can the details of the supply chain will help you eliminate costs you didn’t even know were there. Not to mention, the time that used to be tied up managing issues in the supply chain can now be used to do other productive things.

So not only are you saving money, you’re able to generate more with the time that is now free.

4. Make the Vendors Happy, Keep Relationships

As we’ve mentioned, each link in the chain costs money, involves a relationship, and needs to be reliable. If you are consistently on top of the data, you will not make nearly as many mistakes as you would if you just let things go casually.

You’ll develop a reputation as a reliable company that can be trusted, and this will make your friends. Reputation is huge, and if someone gives you a recommendation, you’d better thank the efficiency of your supply chain.

5. Have a Zero Waste Operation

Supply chain intelligence will also allow you to analyze the routes, locations, and delivery methods of all of your materials. This means that your route is going to be streamlined by incorporating the most efficient and convenient locations to stop.

That will save on fuel and man-hours, and the product will be at your door faster, freeing up time for you to make future plans.

6. Have the Ability to Plan Ahead Accurately

All of these things will culminate in a state of high-efficiency, one that is predictable and consistent. Freeing up all the spare time and money that you have floating around in your supply chain will allow you to make moves to expand the business.

Whether the time that you gain will allow you to spend time with your family, thereby improving your mood and everyone else’s, or you will toil away, making that perfect business plan, you’re going to have the option to do something new.

7. Be Able to Factor in Outside Forces

Some advanced supply chain technology is beginning to predict the effects that certain events might have on shipping demands or traffic hold-ups. Cultural influences are huge, and you want to be prepared for whatever comes your way.

It’s great because these services tailor their efforts to your business’ niche, your area, and your desires. The fact that these services exist also takes away a significant amount of risk. You have the ability to make better, more informed decisions about where your materials are going.

Whether your issue has been weather damages, poor relationships with shoddy suppliers, or issues that could impact your insurance and damages, supply chain intelligence will be able to give you a rough estimate as to how these things will affect you in the future.

Another factor that reduces risk is the ability to know when an issue arises, address it, and have a laundry list of alternative options to fall back on when you’re forced to make decisions. A lot of the damage comes in the time between the issue and reparations, which is why it’s essential to act quickly.

If you make the investment in supply chain intelligence, you will be able to react quickly, make vendors happy, streamline your chain, save time and man-hours, and gain the ability to look forward with your company.

Interested in Learning More?

You might be thinking, “how much is this going to cost?” Well, it’s likely not as much as you think. If you’re interested in learning more, feel free to reach out to us on our website.

Contact us and we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have about supply chain intelligence.

What to Look for When Picking Shipment Tracking Software

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The shipping software market is worth billions and is growing extremely quickly.

This means it’s more difficult to choose the right software for you and your company. Many programs promise a lot, but cannot accommodate larger companies. Others don’t integrate with your existing systems.

Technology drives the entire modern shipping process. So it’s worth taking the time to drill down on which software can streamline and improve your operation. You also want to make sure you’re taking full advantage of the tech that exists.

The problem is, how do you know which program to pick? Keep reading to find out what you should look for when picking shipment tracking software.

Conditions Awareness

You need real-time, instant information on the condition of your shipments. Sensors give you the capability to monitor changes like these and make decisions quickly.

Look for software that monitors conditions such as location, temperature, and humidity. There’s also the ability to monitor for shock, so if the shipment is dropped the software knows right away.

Some software can also monitor and warn about external conditions like the weather. Extreme heat or cold is another variable that can be sensed using the best shipping software.

Integration With Your Systems

One of the top recommendations when picking out software is ensuring it works together with what you already have.

It’s likely that your company has already invested a lot in its current systems. Maybe you are looking to improve their capabilities. Or, you just want to streamline them all and make them work together.

Find a solution that integrates with them and you’ll save a lot of headaches. Remember, you should determine at the outset. The worst case scenario is finding out later that the new software you’ve invested in is incompatible.

Data Security

When choosing shipment monitoring software, you should be confident the software is safe.

Cyber attacks and data breaches have become more common. Disruptions like these can interrupt your ability to collect package tracking data. They can also negatively affect your company’s reputation.

Ability To Scale And Evolve

Is the software you’re considering able to scale and change with your business?

In the initial stages, you may only need or want it to work on a few workstations. Good software, however, will be able to scale enterprise-wide as your business’ needs and demands evolve.

Good features to look for include a simple multi-channel platform that can support unlimited users. Cloud-based storage is also a technological advantage. It works well for both small and large companies.

Find The Right Shipment Tracking Software For Your Company

Hopefully, now you’ve got all the information you need to choose the right shipment tracking software. Investing in the right technology can totally transform and improve your shipping process.

No matter the size of your supply chain, we can help. Have a look at our plans and check out our frequently asked questions. You could be on the way to optimizing how you track shipments today.

3 Trucking Industry Trends Dominating 2018

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Are you facing increased demand and low trucking supply? E-commerce is changing the world of trucking: experts predict that spending will surpass the $3 trillion mark by 2020.

Keeping track of trucking industry trends is important, especially for large manufacturing companies. The battle for final-mile shipping is being fought all over the United States as companies like Uber and XPO Logistics gear up to get a larger share of this lucrative market.

1. Driver Shortage

As Walmart and Amazon rush to meet increased order volume, the transportation industry is struggling to find drivers.

Despite increased pay and bonuses, the freight transportation industry lacks more than 50,000 drivers. Long hours make for a tough job and many younger workers do not see trucking as an attractive lifestyle.

While some truckers report making up to $100,000 per year, the typical pay is closer to $50,000. Some trucking companies have increased their pay rate by more than 15% but are still having trouble finding willing workers.

2. Electronic Logging Devices

The trucking industry is experiencing some pushback from experienced drivers after new electronic logging devices laws began last year.

The ELD laws require the installation of electronic tracking devices that will ensure drivers only drive for 11 hours in a row. They are then required to rest for 10 hours every day.

For some smaller trucking companies, the cost of installing the ELD devices comes as a shock to the system. With fewer drivers on the road than ever before, mandatory rest periods could slow down shipping times.

3. Rising Spot Rates

Spot rates should continue to rise through 2018, a trend relating to the shortage of truck drivers on the road.

Experts predict that the rates will even out, but for the time being there will be more freight shipped via railway. Shipping freight via train is cheaper than moving it by truck and many major shippers are already making the switch.

XPO Logistics arranged more than 10 million final-mile deliveries in 2017, but they have a fleet of more than 5,000 dedicated drivers and access to new shipment tracking software.

More Trucking Industry Trends

In the next several years, new technology is going to revolutionize the trucking industry. Uber Freight, Amazon, and Convoy are taking advantage of apps that connect truckers with on-demand freight.

In the next few years, these smaller companies stand a good chance of becoming competition for FedEx, UPS, and the United States Postal Service.

Tesla has also rolled out an electric truck that can go 500 miles on a single charge. Once there are more charging stations, these electric trucks have the potential to change the shipping market. Truckers who currently spend thousands of dollars on gas could find themselves a few pay grades richer.

New technology will continue to dominate trucking industry trends. We offer effective solutions for your shipping needs, allowing you to track delays, weather conditions, and damage to your shipment.

Drop us a line and let us know what shipping problems you’re dealing with. We work with businesses of any size and are more than happy to help.